Colorado felony sentences carry mandatory minimum terms, but some defendants can avoid prison through felony probation or other alternative sentencing such as community corrections or home confinement. And at the sentencing hearing, defendants can present mitigating circumstances to persuade the judge to impose laxer penalties.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. Does Colorado have mandatory minimum sentences for felonies?
- 2. How much of your felony sentence do you serve in Colorado?
- 3. What happens at a sentencing hearing?
- 4. Who is eligible for felony probation in Colorado?
- 5. What is community corrections?
- 6. Can I serve home detention rather than prison?
- 7. What are habitual offenders?
- 8. Can felony convictions be sealed in Colorado?
1. Does Colorado have mandatory minimum sentences for felonies?
Yes, Colorado law imposes mandatory minimum prison sentences for felony convictions, though it may be possible to avoid incarceration through probation or other alternative sentencing.
Felony penalties depend on the class of felony:
|Colorado felony conviction ||Presumptive sentence|
|Class 1|| |
|Class 2|| |
|Class 3|| |
3 years of mandatory parole.
The maximum sentence is 16 years in prison for extraordinary risk class 3 felonies.
|Class 4|| |
3 years of mandatory parole.
The maximum sentence is 8 years in prison for extraordinary risk class 4 felonies.
|Class 5|| |
2 years of mandatory parole.
The maximum sentence is 4 years in prison for extraordinary risk class 5 felonies.
|Class 6|| |
1 year of mandatory parole.
The maximum sentence is 2 years in prison for extraordinary risk class 6 felonies.
Colorado also has several unclassified felonies with penalties specific to the crime.1
Colorado sentences for drug felonies depend on the crime category:
|Felony drug offense ||Presumptive range in Colorado |
|Level 1|| |
The minimum prison term is 12 years for aggravated level 1 drug felonies.
|Level 2|| |
The prison term is 8 to 16 years for aggravated level 2 drug felonies.
|Level 3|| |
The prison term is 4 to 6 years for aggravated level 3 drug felonies.
|Level 4|| |
The maximum prison term is 2 years for aggravated level 4 drug felonies.2
See our related article on statutes of limitations in Colorado criminal cases.
2. How much of your felony sentence do you serve in Colorado?
In general, prisoners are eligible for parole consideration after serving 50% of their time. Felony sentences are also reduced by any time the defendant spent in custody prior to the conviction. Prisoners also have the opportunity to work off 10 days of their sentence each month (“earned time”) through labor, classes, group living, or general compliance.
However, prisoners convicted of a crime of violence are not eligible for parole consideration until 75% of their time has been served. And if they have prior convictions for a crime of violence, they cannot accrue “earned time.”
Also, sex offenders must serve 100% of the minimum sentence before parole consideration. Though they are also allowed to accrue “earned time.”3
3. What happens at a sentencing hearing?
A sentencing hearing in Colorado is where a judge imposes penalties on a defendant who has been convicted of a crime. During the hearing, the defense and deputy district attorney advance their arguments as to what punishment the defendant should receive. And both sides can call witnesses urging for laxer or harsher sentences.
When determining which penalty to impose in the criminal sentencing range, judges take into account aggravating and mitigating circumstances. Aggravating circumstances make the defendant more blameworthy and deserving of a tougher punishment. Examples are:
- The defendant had a prior criminal history;
- The defendant shows no remorse; or
- The victims were substantially harmed.
Meanwhile, mitigating factors make the defendant less blameworthy and more deserving of probation or the minimum sentence. Examples are:
- The defendant was abused growing up;
- The defendant shows remorse; or
- The crime had no victims.
Sometimes the defense attorney and prosecutor agree ahead of time to a punishment. When this happens, the judge will usually rubber stamp this negotiation and impose the agreed-upon sentence.4
4. Who is eligible for felony probation in Colorado?
Many defendants under Colorado sentencing laws are eligible for probation instead of prison. However, judges may not grant probation to defendants convicted of multiple felonies or of a class 1 felony.
The terms of probation depend on the defendant’s individual criminal case. Ten common probation terms are:
- regular reporting to the probation officer;
- not committing any other offenses;
- not leaving the county, Colorado, or the U.S. without permission;
- paying all fines, court costs, and victim restitution;
- abstaining from alcohol and drugs;
- completing a rehabilitation program and/or attending counseling;
- submitting to alcohol and drug tests and/or wearing an alcohol detection anklet;
- electronic monitoring with an ankle bracelet and/or abiding by a curfew;
- maintaining employment and/or attending school or vocational training; and/or
- following the terms of a restraining order.2
Probation for a felony crime can last for as long as the judge deems necessary. But defendants may be able to apply for early termination of probation in certain cases.
A defendant caught violating probation can be arrested and held in custody until the probation violation hearing. If the judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant did violate probation, the judge can “revoke probation,” remand him/her into custody, and impose the underlying prison sentence. But in some cases, judges give defendants a second chance to finish probation.5
See our related article on deferred prosecution, which is difficult to get in felony cases.
5. What is community corrections?
Community corrections programs (CCPs) are a sentencing alternative for Colorado defendants convicted of nonviolent felonies (or misdemeanors) but who are ineligible for probation. CCPs are often done under residential supervision with strict curfews. And defendants are required to work at a job while completing other probation-like terms such as individualized counseling or drug treatment.
As with probation, CCP defendants who violate the terms can be remanded to prison.6
6. Can I serve home detention rather than prison?
Home detention programs in Colorado permit certain convicted defendants to serve their sentence at home. In some cases, defendants may be eligible to go to work or school or other approved activities. But otherwise, they must remain at home under electronic monitoring.
7. What are habitual offenders?
In Colorado, defendants convicted of a serious felony – and who have at least two prior felony convictions – face habitual offender sentencing. Depending on the specific crimes, habitual offenders face a sentencing scheme that is three- or four-times what they would face otherwise. And some habitual criminals face life in prison.8
8. Can felony convictions be sealed in Colorado?
Under the Colorado criminal justice system, the following felony convictions cannot be sealed:
- Class 1 felonies,
- Class 2 felonies,
- Class 3 felonies,
- Level 1 drug felonies,
- felony sex offenses,
- felony DUIs, and
- Domestic violence-related felonies.
Meanwhile, other felony convictions can usually be sealed three years after the case ends. An exception is level 2 drug felony convictions, which require a five-year wait.
We defend against all types of felony offenses including first degree assault, second degree assault, aggravated robbery, crimes that require sex offender registration including sexual assault, drug crimes such as unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, child abuse, violent crimes, and white collar criminal offenses. We also defend against misdemeanor offenses, petty offenses, and infractions carrying fines or jail time. Disclaimer: Results cannot be guaranteed.